Be Aware: Help Lock out Unscrupulous Locksmiths

Crime Beat

Alameda resident Randy Reed is on a mission to educate people about the dishonesty that runs rampant in the trade he loves so well. Reed is part owner of Reed Brothers Security, a locksmith company in business for almost 45 years with more than 50 uniformed, licensed professionals.

"Emergencies often leave us feeling helpless, and this vulnerability makes fertile soil for predators," Reed says.

When we need a locksmith, we find a number in the Yellow Pages, or go online and Google "Alameda locksmith," or pick up the phone and dial 411.

"Any of these methods just might connect you to a call center — a boiler room — where unlicensed, unscrupulous 'locksmiths' leave their names and numbers," Reed says.

Consumers should be especially careful of locksmith services that advertise on the Internet, Reed says.

The California Department of Consumer affairs ran a sting operation in 2006 that identified more than a dozen telephone numbers and business names advertising locksmith services on the Internet that did not appear to be licensed.

A Google search for "Alameda locksmiths" turned up a number of companies using 800 numbers with fake Alameda addresses. Those who turn to the Yellow Pages for help might also run into a predator.

Reed cited an example of an elderly Alamedan who came to Reed Brothers who was duped after calling an 800 number he found in the Yellow Pages.

"Hope all this helps," the senior citizen wrote in a note to Reed. "I can ill afford these prices."

"These prices" can amount to a sizable sum. Not only does a citizen who falls for a unscrupulous locksmith have to pay fees to the predator, but also to the reputable locksmith who repairs any problems the predator left behind.

A Google search of the 800 number that this Alamedan dialed led from Alameda to a company in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. that was using the same number.

California law requires that all locksmiths be licensed. If the work costs the consumer over $500, the locksmith must also have a license from the Contractors State License Board.

According to Reed, any reputable company will send a uniformed locksmith with a badge and a picture ID. If the locksmith who shows up at the door is not in uniform or becomes evasive when asked to produce company badge or picture ID, Reed suggests asking the person to show his or her locksmith's license.


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